Isaiah 55:8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord ”
Several times a day I pick up a leash and say the magic words to Ruckus: “Want to go for a walk?” His tail wags and he turns round and round, proving that we understand each other perfectly. We are going out for a walk. I look forward to a brisk time of exercise, trotting along nicely through our neighborhood and coming back happy and tired. But there is one thing I fail each time to understand. “Walk” has a different meaning when translated into dog. In dog, “walk” means “smell.”
What Ruckus hears is “Are you ready to mark every blade of grass in the neighborhood as belonging to you and only you? Are you ready to inspect every bush, every spot in the middle of the road, and every telephone pole for secret messages left by other canine agents in the area?” And he assumes that I know exactly what he expects. I shouldn’t be surprised when we trot along for fifty feet and suddenly discover that the nimble 72 lb. dog on the other end of the leash becomes a resistant boulder, jerking my arm almost out of its socket. We are not out for a walk, as I understand the term. We are out for a smell.
Of course there are many ways in our human relationships where we also mistake each other’s meaning. When parent and child agree that the child will “help” with chores around the house, there are often dramatic differences in interpretation. When spouses decide to “do something fun together” the devil is often in the details. Whether it is the meaning of “quiet,” “work,” or “soon,” we have all run into the fact that we often mean different things with the same words.
Apparently this isn’t just a problematic piece of human relationships. According to Scripture, the same is true in our relationship with God. I may think that I’m going to work on a given day and that the purpose is to accomplish the tasks on my desk. Then I get all hot and bothered because I’m constantly interrupted by a co-worker telling me all her problems. I go home feeling like I’ve done nothing when, in God’s eyes, I may well have accomplished God’s hope for my day. In fact, that could happen with my entire life. I wonder how many people face their final days thinking, “My life has been worth very little—I’ve failed at all I’ve tried” only to find on the other side that their crown has three times the stars of those who, by human standards, did so much. We thought we were going for a walk, but we were really going for a smell.
Of course what is true for us is true for others as well. Knowing that God’s thoughts and ways are not our thoughts and ways should lead us to be more careful in pronouncing judgment on others. We may think we know what God approves and doesn’t approve, and maybe we’re right. But maybe we’re not. Certainly the Pharisees thought they had it figured out. But Jesus turned over the applecart and said that all their years of study hadn’t helped them know God’s ways at all. They had it all wrong. We listen hard for God’s voice, but we should always remember that we don’t fully understand the language.
Walk with me, Lord, and teach me what you mean by that. Amen.
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